Help Choosing a Laptop for High School Student (Age 13) - Budget $1000

Hi,
my daughter now requires a BYOD laptop for school. The school has given some minimum specs (which i list below) but also has 2 recommend options that the IT department will handle the warranty and repair claims for. I assume that means they'll probably be more familiar with easy fixes for those models also. I do place a value on these conveniences but am concerned that neither option is that great a buy (even given the convenience factor). But I don't know much about computers these days. The school is very clear that any laptop meeting those specs is acceptable.

Minimum Laptop Specifications
• Screen: 11 inch
• Operating System: Windows 10 64bit / Mac OS 10.13 (High Sierra)
• CPU (Processor): Intel Pentium, i3 or AMD A4
• Memory (RAM): 4GB
• Storage: 500GB Hard Drive or 128GB Solid State Drive (SSD)
• Network: Dual Band Wireless [802.11ac (2.4/5.0GHz)]
• Battery: Minimum 6hr run time on balanced power settings
• Hard Case Carry Bag

The "supported" options

Dell Latitude 3190 11" 4GB/128GB with 3 Year Onsite Warranty $946

Intel Pentium N5030 Processor w/ Intel UHD Graphics 605
ENERGY STAR Qualified
11.6" HD (1366 x 768) Anti-Glare Non-Touch, Camera & Microphone
4GB Memory
128GB M.2 PCIe NVMe Solid State Drive
Power Cord for 3-pin Adapter (ANZ)
3 Cell 42WHR Battery
65 Watt AC Adaptor
Intel(R) Dual-Band Wireless-AC 8265 Wi-Fi + BT 4.2 Wireless Card (2x2) driver
Windows 10 Pro (64bit) English
3Yr ProSupport:Next Business Day Onsite Service

One education infintiy for $620

Specifications

Intel Celeron N4100 Quad Core
4 GB RAM
128 GB Solid State Drive
Intel UHD Graphics 600
USB-C Fast Charging
Windows 10 Pro Education

More details here

3Yr ProSupport:Next Business Day Onsite Service

I like the compact tough nature of the Infinity but it just seems a bit toy like and I struggle with the idea of spending nearly $1000 on a laptop with 4GB RAM and 1366x768 but maybe that's ok for a smaller screen.

My personal requirements are that it needs to be fairly tough, light and hopefully spill resistant. Up to 14 inch max but slightly smaller is probably better.
As far as my daughters other uses for it go, she is very much into music (mostly "classical", but also "mash-ups") and is keen to start using some composing and arranging software. I am not sure if that is something we will aim to do well on this device or just get a cheap, light, tough device for school and eventually something else for music at home.

My budget I am aiming for is under $800 but I am flexible up to $1000 if it really really makes sense. Having said that, we have just signed a contract on our first house and I am also paranoid the laptop will get "lost" or broken so I am also half aiming for more like under $600 with the view to upgrade it within the next 2 years and/or have a 2nd better machine for her music etc at home (eventually).

I am open to refurbs, if they seem to be in good condition, but not private sales from gumtree etc.
In considering refurbs I have had a look at the following so far. Doesn't seem to be any smaller latitudes available from the dell outlet at the moment unfortunately.

Inspiron 14 - 3493 Laptop for $779

Dell Latitude E5270 for $400 (but only 30 day warranty)

Lenovo ThinkPad X240 Intel Core i5 4300u 1.90Ghz 8Gb Ram 128Gb SSD 12.5" HD Webcam Windows 10 - Refurbished for $319

Inspiron 14 - 3493 Laptop for $779

Other info:

My daughter is particularly small for her age (hence wanting it relatively light and smallish screen).
She already has an iPad air (few years old) for non-school stuff. I am located in Brisbane. Very open to suggestions.

Woops. That was a novel. Thanks to anyone that read this far.

I appreciate anyone's input. Feeling a bit overwhelmed.

Thanks,
Andrew.

Comments

    • +1

      This. Some absolute bargains to be had at times. The options for the school are underpowered, overpriced turds.

      • Thanks. I have checked that out but nothing under $1K at the moment. Am half considering the Latitude 14 3310.

          • +2

            @brendanm: No, Inspiron is Dell's cheaper consumer grade (built to a lower spec, more plastic vs. magnesium alloy, etc.) system with 1yr limited service warranty.

            Latitudes are the Dell business spec systems built to a higher standard, and come with 3 years Next business day on-site pro support.

            If you're relying on a system for work or study, then you're far better off paying the extra for the more premium system.

            If you time your purchase right you can pickup some excellent bargains. I bought a Latitude 5310 2-in-1 laptop for my wife during their Black Friday (30% off sale) for $993 (also bought a cheap Optiplex 7080 micro system at the same time).

            i5 10310u
            8GB DDR4 (1 slot free)
            512GB NVMe
            1080P touch screen
            Intel Wi-Fi 6

            Not a single scratch on it, and once received and setup I was informed by the Dell utility, that the battery was covered with their extended 3 yrs warranty (their normal batteries come with 12 months warranty, but the original owner must have payed the extra).

            • +1

              @xuqi: Weird, I got a couple of inspirons from Dell outlet with 3 year warranties.

              Inspirons are fine for school use. My son has used his for a couple of years now. Had a motherboard issue about 6 months after purchase, had a tech out asap who replaced it on the spot. Zero issues since.

  • +2

    Will the school provide any kind of support if you go your own?

    I work IT at schools and each school does there own thing - a lot of the time it can be the prin decision and IT doesn't agree or like it.

    The pro support provided with the two school options plays a big part in the cost factor. Dell's pro support is really good - for normal consumer it sucks.
    What is the school like in terms of kids - do the kids at the school all seem to be pretty good and not the kind to damage stuff all the time (I know it can always happen no matter what)

    Will the school still provide some kind of support if you do one not from their recommended list? If they won't cover hardware/physical damage and you need to go through the store you buy from you need to factor this in. The school options will have an SLA and they will have parts from other laptops they can use as all the same model. Also repairers would come to the school to fix the device.
    If you need to go through the store you will have less support. If it gets damaged by another kid you will have a hard time going through the store as they will most likely not get it fixed. We have had a few that happened to. Also, depended on what warranty you get yourself, you may need to send the device somewhere for them to fix it so you could be with out a device to use for a number of weeks etc. Does the school have loan ones you can use in this time?

    But in my opinion I would go some kind of Lenovo Thinkpad. I have always found them to be built solid, run everything no problem and easy to use. I use a t480s as my daily driver and it has never faulted. It's what I use to manage my schools.

    I am happy to talk with you more if you have any questions on how the basics tend to run in these programs if you like.
    I would find out the full differences between picking one of the recommended and buying your own and compare.
    School Recommend - the full support provided - school image provided with software- reimaging if os/software breaks etc
    Buy own - will they just put wireless on-will they wipe and put school image on only while your daughter is at school-will they fix any damage or leave you with it to deal with store brought from, can you pay a small amount to get damage covered a certain amount/school cover a certain amount then you left to deal with?

    Hit me up if you need to clarify or ask anything more.

    • Thanks heaps for that amazing reply.

      Yes. The school does still offer some support for other laptops including short term loans. My limited info is:

      The school’s BYOD program supports personally-owned laptop devices in terms of
      access to:
      • printing
      • internet
      • file access and storage
      • support to connect devices to the school network
      • general technical advice and troubleshooting
      • Short term loan hot swap laptop
      However, the school’s BYOD program does not support personally-owned laptop
      devices in regard to:
      • technical support (other than trouble-shooting and advice)
      • charging of devices at school
      • security, integrity, insurance, repairs and maintenance
      • private network accounts.

      Repairs:
      Warranty and accidental damage repairs on individually owned laptops are the responsibility
      of parents/caregivers and students.
      Repairs on devices purchased from vendors using the school portal must be logged with the
      vendor by the parent/caregiver or student. Repairs may then be scheduled to be done at school
      by the authorized vendor technician.

      Not sure how limited the troubleshooting will be. Don't think they will actually do any repairs regardless of whether i buy through the school but they will organise the repairs (which i am guessing will be done at school) for the two recommended ones.

      I am looking into the thinkpads. My wife has always been happy with the ones her work provides. Seem solid. But now she has a Dell lattitude which also has been good to her.

    • As far as the nature of "the cohort" goes. I think they are moderately good kids. Small state school in a decent area. Certainly not a school with a rough reputation but possibly a school where kids are used to having things replaced if they break/loose them - might make them a little careless.

      • Block-quote
        (Repairs:
        Warranty and accidental damage repairs on individually owned laptops are the responsibility
        of parents/caregivers and students.
        Repairs on devices purchased from vendors using the school portal must be logged with the
        vendor by the parent/caregiver or student. Repairs may then be scheduled to be done at school
        by the authorized vendor technician.)>

        Yeh so sounds like if you buy one of the school options any repairs will be done at school. It won't cost a thing - it could be like one of mine where if you have the same student getting repaired every other week they will start charging an amount each time. That's the main thing to consider really. Could you afford to buy another one if it gets damaged. or could you just use one of the loaned school ones for the remained of school time.

        You could upgrade the ram yourself if you feel comfortable - not that bad - usually just take screws out of bottom and then pull out old ram.

        • +1

          If that came out three years ago it was already extremely dated then. It's using a dual core CPU from 2014, and has a 900p TN screen which was the standard display for laptops in idk, 2002. It'll be slow, and fiddly with what angle you hold the screen at without the colours inverting.

          A modern $650-800 laptop gets you between 4 & 8 cores, and a 1080p IPS screen with good viewing angles

          • @Ark94: I guess we have different opinions on what slow is. I would not consider it to be a slow CPU, even if it is not particularly fast in comparison to the latest CPUs.

            Anyway, I agree that there are much better options.

    • +2

      Thanks but keen to expose her to the Windows PC world a bit. Her primary school was purely apple.

  • My son went for the school IT option and recommendations for options. If there is any issues he could just bring it to IT to look at. The convenience may be worth it just for that as you want to have issues addressed ASAP.. You may not have the time to chase up repairs or issues. Worth considering.

    • Ta. That's the drawcard even though the machines look mediocre.

  • +2

    4 GB of RAM is not enough for a Windows laptop if you don't want it to be painfully slow and frustrating

    I don't know why schools even recommend this

    • -3

      Just stick a sub stick in the side and use memboost… $3 upgrade lol

    • Yep. That's one of my concerns.

  • My kids high school has the same BYOD thing, they recommend a couple of Lenovo models and the IT dept provide full support for those ones. I checked how the prices compared and decided it was reasonable and much more convenient to go with the school supported ones (mainly that it includes 3 yr warranty and for any faults the school IT dept can't fix they lend the kid a temporary replacement and handle all the dealing with Lenovo for the repair/replacement).

    When my son started in year 8 I got the base model they offer which is a Lenovo 11e Netbook (11.6" screen, Celeron, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD) for $712. That lasted him 2 years and now I've just bought him a new one for year 10, again via the school a Lenovo Thinkpad L13 (13.3" screen, i5, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD) for $1105.

    I was initially a bit skeptical the 11e would be any good but I think that size and fairly low price is actually the right idea for starting high school. My daughter starts this year and she is going to have my son's now 2 year old 11e (reset to factory and cleaned up) for year 8 then I'll probably buy her a new one next year (partly cos the 11e is still good but also so I don't have to buy 2 laptops in the same year). She's more into graphic design and photo/video editing so might need a better one sooner than my son did but we'll wait and see how she goes.

    So I recommend going with the cheapest school supported laptop for general use then consider replacing it in a couple of years when the kid and you have more idea what specialised subjects they want to do and might have more specific needs of a laptop.

    PS. get the laptop listed/added to your home&contents insurance rather than taking out a separate laptop insurance policy.

    • Thanks. That's kind of where I'm at - every other moment. Then I change my mind. In my case the cheaper option is by a brand I have never heard of - "One Education". And the other option is nearly $1K for a laptop with limited ram and an ordinary screen. Really wish they had an option in between.

      Thanks for the insurance advice.

      • The Infinity devices come from the product line of the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) Project.
        While it might be a nice device, per say, please don't.

        You mentioned above it is a state school, which I guess is an EQ primary school.
        What year level is your daughter in?

        The are so many options for smaller screen size devices, which others have mentioned.
        Just finding the right one for your budget is the trick.

        Interesting though that they have implemented BYOD in a primary school.
        Will this device carry over to the high school your daughter will go to?
        If not, than an older/cheaper device with a shorter life span may suffice.

        Is the school offering any 'loan' devices at a small cost?
        Typically these will be rather old and low spec, but may be worth the small hire fee.

        • Sorry. I should of said State HIGH school. She is about to turn 13. No loan device options but short-term loans while byo device is being repaired.

          Thanks for the input.

          • @chewbot: Thanks for clarifying.

            Have you considered the expected lifespan and usage of the device?
            How long do you expect it to last to support the education outcomes and changing needs of subjects your daughter will do in her school life?
            Maybe a cheaper slightly older device will be fine for a coupe of years (7 & 8), then sell it off to help pay for the next 2 year device.
            You may find a more powerful device is required for graphics/CAD, etc.in later school years.

            A basic i3 with 8GB of ram is fine for Internet and Office and basic graphics stuff.
            This would be fine for most schools.
            Quick search on eBay came up with 42 results for 'i3 8gb laptop' priced between $500 and $1000.
            Try and go for a 256GB SSD, which most of them have.
            I prefer Dell or HP as their support is good, but is up to you.
            If looking at Dell try and get a Latitude which I think others have mentioned, better built business class laptop.

            Whatever you get make sure it is dual-band wireless, 2.4Ghz & 5Ghz, which most laptops should be or have been for ages.
            Something weird and wonderful, or just too old might be 2.4 only.
            The school may have 2.4 switched off and likely won't get it turned back on for just 1 device.

            Don't purchase MS Office for it as the students are covered under the licensing agreement with MS.

            Good luck with your search.

  • I got a refurb acer with 512 ssd and 8gb ram for $500. Works really well and you have manufacturer warranty. I think it's a good option. Besides kids will drop laptops and break things. Might as well get something half price and you can replace down the line when its broken beyond repair

    • Thanks. I did have a look at the official acer refurbs. Unfortunately, right now they only have 15.6 inch and I am very keen for smaller.

      • All good.

  • My son is also starting high school so I just bought a laptop from Dell official website and found a good bargain for a nice laptop. Check this link
    https://www.dell.com/en-au/shop/dell-laptops/sr/laptops/1000...

    • Thanks. That's exactly what I want but just smaller. It seems no one has good deals on smaller ones right now.

      • I think 14inch is not bad, also 15 is not too big if it is not heavy

    • Be sure to take Windows 10 out of "S mode" so applications outside of the Microsoft Store can be downloaded. See here.

  • +1

    Is a Macbook Air out of the question?

    The new M1 chip Macbook Airs will easily last till graduation and considering you can get a brand new one for $1439 (with free Airpods - which you can probably sell privately for about $100-150.

    I know your budget is $1000, but for about $1300 you'd be getting a brand new machine which should easily last her till graduation, rather than pending $500-800 now and replacing it in 2-3 years time.

    Considering she has an iPad the Mac might make sense especially if she's also using other Apple products.
    Also if she's comfortable on mac and can be more productive on it, that's also another reason worth considering.

    Then again if she prefers Windows then and the school won't allow the M1 Macs then getting the cheapest machine now would probably do.

    Anyway that's my 2c

    • Thanks but keen to expose her to the Windows PC world a bit. Her primary school was purely apple. Also, I would be way scared about it getting damaged or drawing the wrong kind of attention. Plus $$$$.

    • I agree with this, the additional price for purchase will be recouped in the length of time that the device will last and be usable as well as resale value. The Windows laptops will have limited resale value after a short time. It is also the fastest laptop they will be able to buy at that price range, battery life will also mean that she does not ever have to carry around a charger (to lose) and it will still last almost two days of school use. Not to mention for a non tech, Mac's tend to work like an appliance meaning you get to do the work you need instead of playing around with the OS to make things work properly.

      Theft wise, any modern MacBook can not be stolen and be useful to the thief if you enable "Find my", the same as any modern iPhone or iPad.

  • This Lenovo ? Only downside is the delivery date is after school starts.
    Or the Ryzen 5 equivalent albeit smaller SSD.
    The L390 is a 13" which would be nice and light

    14" is an ok size IMO, I wouldn't go 15". There's quite a few discounted 13" options on their sale page

  • Have you considered using the 10% education discount and getting the mid range Microsoft Laptop Go for a little more than 1000? It's a sweet little device that's really light (just over a kilo) and seems quite sturdy. Specs may not be amazing but it's quite capable.

    If you are lugging the laptop around all day, having something that's potentially 500g lighter than others is a good option.

    https://www.microsoft.com/en-au/p/surface-laptop-go/94fc0bdg...

    • The Surface Go is overpriced to start with. You can get a more capable VivoBook S13 512GB i5 ultrabook weighing 100 grams more for $1099 new, or a refurbished ZenBook 3 12.5" ultrabook weighing 200 grams less for $799 that has an i7 processor and 512GB SSD. Something like that would last through high school.

      • I like the zenbooks but, through having 3 of them, each has eventually had a problem with a combination of keyboard, trackpad and/or charging port. And good luck buying any laptop that will "last through high school" - I'd prepare yourself to buy at least 2 over the next 6 years.

        • I've owned a ZenBook UX360 for the last almost 4 years of high school, nothing wrong except for the battery degrading. My mother has owned a ZenBook UX330 for 4 years which had a fan replaced under warranty. My sister and father have both owned ZenBook UX333s for the past year which have had no issues.

          Funnily enough NRMA CareFlight uses Asus VivoBooks in their helicopters.

          I believe most problems are with those cheaper models that have hard drives or are Chromebooks, say <$1000 new.

  • -2

    You contact the school… you ask what do THEY recommend. If too expensive, they will provide alternatives.
    After all, it is for "school" - not for "gaming"…. you act responsible and contact the school.

    • +2

      Honestly I hope you find what you need to be happier in life with minimal impact on those around you.

      This thread starts by listing the school's stipulations. There is no mention of "gaming" at all. Even if it was possible to contact the school at the moment (which it's not) It would NOT be "responsible" to "contact" the school and get them to reiterate every piece of information they have sent out. If everyone did that school staff would have no time to do the tasks necessary for running a school and giving the next generation of adults an education. And then we'd all be screwed.

  • Here is my tip

    From what I see in the specs your school is suggesting a low end PC will suffice.

    So you only need spend around $500

    • Low-end PCs are often not up to the task of having 10 Chrome tabs, Word and background tasks running at the same time, and they're wasteful. For me, the ones schools recommend are bulky and the performance is unsatisfactory, and worth half the price they charge.

  • Hi chewbot, I'd highly recommend the following Asus laptops, which I have had a good experience with through high school for the past 3 years. They are at the upper end of your budget, however they exceed your requirements and are much thinner, smaller (due to a small frame around the screen) and lighter than any other model listed above. I'd also expect them to last longer and manage more than a few applications open at once, which the others will struggle with.

    VivoBook Flip 14" (touchscreen), 1.5kg
    $1018 128GB, 8GB, AMD Ryzen 3 (TM420IA-EC110T)
    $1026 256GB, 8GB, AMD Ryzen 3 (TM420IA-EC127T)

    VivoBook Slim S13 13.3", 1.2kg, Windows 10 Pro
    $1099 512GB, 8GB, i5-1035G1 (S333JA-EG009R)

    Instead, you could purchase a refurbished model, for example with code BYE20:

    $599 VivoBook S14 14" in "great condition", weighs 1.45kg.

    $799 ZenBook 3 12.5", Windows 10 Pro, with an i7 processor, 8GB RAM and 512GB SSD, in "great condition". New it was $2000. It weighs 0.91kg.

    ^This is the one I'd go for. The smallest, lightest and fastest of the bunch.

  • -3

    Our son had a Mac air (I know you don’t want Apple), I was never an Apple fan but for school it was a fantastic laptop, 13inch screen (don’t go smaller or bigger) and battery life was all day. And it was built strong, much stronger than cheaper plastic ones.
    My son still has it even though it’s prob 6 years old now but he also bought a MacBook Pro last year.

    When checking for windows laptops, none at the time had anywhere near the battery life unless you paid a fortune.

    So , check battery life as it needs to last all day, they don’t plug the laptops in during the day. You want small 13inch as they move around all the time, 11inch is too small a screen to last them years and 14inch is too big.

    Good luck.

  • Seeing that you are open to refurb, I recommend checking out this eBay store as well, https://www.ebay.com.au/str/australiancomputertraders/Laptop... (Australian Computer Traders, also based in QLD, at Kangaroo Point). They've posted heaps of deals before on OzBargain (mainly OptiPlex SFF desktops, but they do trade laptops too). You can also try their actual website (https://www.australiancomputertraders.com.au/Refurbished-Lap...), and give them a call too for any questions.

    Considering the minimum spec is the Atom class Pentium N5030 Processor, it's sort of on-par with 2nd and 3rd gen Core i5 processors, so pretty much anything from 3rd gen onwards will be sufficiently better, and should be able to handle any school work fine for her current stage. Now as portability is also important, then just considered the <14" models (check the weights).

    Now one caveat would be I don't know how important the Bluetooth version is for the school requirements, as it seems like the only the machines with 7th gen intel Core CPUs or newer have BT version 4.2 and above.

    Good luck.

  • Hi everyone,

    Thanks to everybody for their suggestions and guidance.

    I still haven't purchased but am now leaning very much towards lighter and smaller laptops. ie less than 1.5kg (preferably less than 1.3) and less than 14 inch.

    Still after something reasonably rugged though.

    I just noticed the dell xps range at the dell outlet, but there are some very varied opinions about these.

    https://www.dell.com/en-au/outlet/shop/laptops-tablets/xps-l...

    also considering the vostro

    eg
    https://deals.dell.com/en-au/work/productdetail/73qv

    I'm also considering the Asus vivobook

    eg
    https://www.umart.com.au/Asus-VivoBook-Slim-S13-13-3in-FHD-i...

    also considering some of the acer swift 3 (and possibly 5) models

    eg
    https://www.umart.com.au/Acer-Swift-3-14in-FHD-IPS-i5-1035G1...

    https://online.acer.com.au/acer/store/laptops/evo-laptops/ac...

    or maybe even

    https://www.umart.com.au/Lenovo-ThinkBook-13s-13in-FHD-IPS-i...

    but that seems like overkill (and pricey)

    or if i go cheapie refurb possibly these:

    Dell Latitude 7370 M5 Ultrabook
    https://www.australiancomputertraders.com.au/Dell-Latitude-7...

    But a bit concerned thats almost toooo dated.

    Would love it if what i ended up with worked well with a digitiser pen as that could come in particularly handy for my daughters music composition. But don't want to put all my focus on something that may not actually end up getting used much. But it would certainly be a bonus. Keen to hear if anyone has used a pen for this purpose and with what software.

    Thanks again for everyone's input.

    • The last one, Dell 7370, will be absolutely fine.
      It was released in 2016, but should last a coupe of years more at least.
      Unless the school has some special ICT curriculum, it will be fine.
      My eldest son is in Year 8 this year and will be taking a 7470, as I refuse to pay the hire fee for the ancient rubbish the school dares to charge money for.

      For music notation there are a few commercial packages, but check out MuseScore, and it's free.

      What digitizer pen are you talking about?
      Wacom?
      If it's supported under Windows 10, it should be fine.

      And I mentioned before, Microsoft Office is free for students to download.
      Don't pay extra for it with the laptop you buy.

      • Thanks for all the advice.

        I had been looking at staffpad but was yet to think about which pen. But I have decided not to worry about it at all for now. Thanks for the tip about musescore.

        Don't worry not paying for Microsoft Office. Thanks.

  • Thanks for everyone's input. I haven't replied to everyone's advice directly but definitely appreciate all the tips.

    Regardless of how good a decision it was I ended up ordering the Dell Vostro 13 5000 with 2 year onsite warranty for $943.21.

    Thanks again.